Milk by R. Schlaack

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SUMMARY: Go on, pour yourself a glass...


Old Man Rajvik was a king in the milk business, the last bulwark against conglomeration, and champion of privately-owned farming.

His company, Rajvik Dairy Products ("We Put the Moo in You!"), had distributors in thirteen states across the Midwest. It was about the biggest privately-owned dairy farm still operating in the U.S. Old Man Rajvik had put away a pretty penny for himself, and now felt he could leave the company in the charge of his two sons. Onslow would be CEO, and John would be in charge of the farm itself.

Rajvik Farms flourished and prospered under the Rajvik sons' leadership. It had about a thousand dollars for each of the thousand cows to his name, and they were all kept in a thoroughly high-tech, fully-automated stainless-steel milking center, where they were fed fresh hay and protein-mix every day, and whose udders were lovingly and efficiently caressed by only the gentlest, most biologically correct milking machines, whose every move was recorded by a massive and powerful computer. Every motion and mood of every cow was monitored minute by minute through the Automated Checkup Timer, and cross-checks were constantly made to ensure that the whole system worked cleanly and affectively, with no human hands to meddle with the controls. It was about the cleanest, most efficient system ever devised by an overpaid team of engineers.

And when it failed, it failed in the most spectacular, nauseous, horrific way imaginable.

It was someone down in the Flow Control room who first noticed something queer in the milk. He was a young man, and new to the control room floor, and as he watched the milk flow by through the observation porthole he was surprise to see a smoky pink stream running through it. He couldn't decide whether to tell anyone or not; he was new, of course, and being thus naïve and leery, he convinced himself it just a minor glitch in the process. Besides, no one had complained yet. And so he kept his mouth shut about it and went back to monitoring the flow from the computer bay.

The next change was a little more alarming. The pink stream was accompanied by some kind of particulate matter, also that same sort of salmony color. Flow Control sent a memo up to Bottling, telling them to watch for it; they did, but apparently none of it was coming out in the final product. It must have gotten caught in the pipe traps, the intestinal squiggles that filtered out such gunk. Anyway, the computers would catch it. That was what they were there for. And by the next day, sure enough, the flecks were gone.

But then there was the incident in the bottling plant backed the whole process up for an hour. They actually had to shut the whole thing down while the maintenance crew scrambled to find the source. It was Spigot Number Nine, the new one with the suction power. They finally located the valve where the flow had stopped; it was somewhere far up in the machine, nestled securely within the serpentine bowels of metal and plastic tubing that carried the milk to the bottling line.

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